Canadian kicker Steve Christie has been following the Buffalo Bills closely since retiring from the NFL in 2008.
Christie signed a one-day contract to retire with Buffalo and it might as well have been paperwork to officially join the Bills Mafia post-career.
“My career in Buffalo — I was there for nine years — I must say how much I appreciate the Canadian fans coming over the border every Sunday. I know it’s a long trip, but I really do sincerely appreciate the support I got from my fellow Canadians,” Christie said.
Christie and his wife Kelly, a native of upstate New York, are real estate agents in Florida. Following his playing days, the couple settled in the south. Even though it’s far from the home of the Bills, the 53-year-old sees parts of the Mafia in the Sunshine State.
“We have met so many Bills fans even in the Sarasota, Bradenton area. The Mafia is all over the country. The Bills fans are incredible,” Christie said.
“Everyone that we’ve met have been typical, fantastic Bills fans — it’s been a real trip. They’re all over the place, they’re everywhere, it’s been a real pleasure to be around them, and man they’re die hard. Win or lose, Bills fans are there.”
The Bills Mafia are known for various shenanigans, but the group’s table-breaking ways are their trademark. Videos of fans crashing through tables in new creative ways go viral regularly, although Christie has never tried the time-honoured tradition.
“No, I’m too old for that,” Christie said with a smile, “I leave it for the youngin’s.”
The former All-Pro has watched the young Bills team produce a 13-3 record to earn an AFC East Division title in 2020 and win two playoff games. It’s the first time Buffalo has seen a victory in the post-season since 1995 when Christie was on the team. He was with the Bills for two AFC Championship Games and two Super Bowls.
“It was surreal. My first couple years in Tampa, it was really great to be in the NFL. But then to come literally home to play for Buffalo was really special,” Christie said.
“To walk in the locker room and see who now are a ton of guys that are in the Hall of Fame, including Marv Levy who has a lot of CFL experience and success, that was overwhelming.”
Jim Kelly quarterbacked the great Bills teams of the 1990s. He led Buffalo to four straight Super Bowls, but infamously went 0-4 and didn’t hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Josh Allen is attempting to lead the Bills of the 2020s to the franchise’s first Super Bowl triumph.
“Josh made some plays earlier on in his career that he learned from, and this season he’s just taken off, it’s been incredible to see his progress,” Christie said.
“It’s hard to believe that this is only his third year. Every quarterback coming in the league has a process of figuring things out, developing and hopefully reaching the potential that everyone thinks that they should.”
Allen was being mentioned as a legitimate NFL MVP candidate after quickly building rapport with Stefon Diggs, the league’s leader in receptions (127) and receiving yards (1,535). That dynamic duo matches up against Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill for the right to play in Super Bowl LV.
“The Bills’ offence has been rolling really well — Allen and Diggs has been a huge combo. Mahomes and Hill is there counter to Allen and Diggs,” Christie said.
“The Bills have to pressure Mahomes and stop the run, and that’s going to be tough to do. Arrowhead is a tough place to play, but that’s what the playoffs are all about.”
Head coach Sean McDermott has put together a “heckuva” Bills roster, according to Christie. From his analysis, Christie believes the current squad has playmakers on offence, defence and special teams.
“As a special teamer, I’m a true believer that in these games, the special teams part of the game will come in with field position and the opportunity to score points,” Christie said.
“That’s where it becomes very important that all three phases are kicking, so to speak, together.”
Rookie kicker Tyler Bass made 28-of-34 field goals during his first year in the NFL, which works out to an 82.4 percent conversation rate, including a long of 58 yards. However, that percentage has dropped in the playoffs so far with Bass converting three-of-five three-point attempts.
The 23-year-old Bass, Buffalo’s sixth round, 188th overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, missed tries from 43 and 44 yards against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional round, but the Canuck still has faith in the youngster.
“You learn quickly as a rookie, I certainly did. He’s done well adjusting to the pressure. Confidence and swagger has a lot to do with it, he’s got plenty of that, and he’s going to need it kicking at Arrowhead,” Christie said.
“I have full confidence that he’s going to do the job. I’ll give you a score — I’ll say 24-21 Bills.”